Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Devil's Choice: Print Cookbook or iPad App?

New iPad App, old print cookbook.
To make a classic recipe, Devil's Food Cake, I looked in a classic cookbook -- The Joy of Cooking. Perfect for Cookbook Wednesday (though I baked it Sunday morning). As it happens I have a very old copy of the printed book as well as a copy of the Joy of Cooking App for my iPad.

Devil's Food Cake ingredients all ready to go: egg whites in mixer,
flour, sugar, chocolate mixture, egg yolks, milk, butter.
Devil's Food Cake continues my theme of devil-titled foods for Halloween.
Examining the instructions for the same recipe from the two different formats offered me a chance to compare the standard, in fact old-fashioned, cookbook with the app. The cookbook wins for several reasons, though these are not intrinsic problems with using apps, just with the way this one is implemented.

To begin with, the cookbook instructions are all on one page, while the app requires scrolling with your sticky, floury hands. A smeary iPad screen will be annoying a few hours later when you try to do Sudoku, check email, or read on your Kindle app. But if you touch the page of the old book or splatter it with batter, you get a permanent stain on the recipe which is kind of amusing as the years go by.

Both versions of this recipe call for the same ingredients and essentially the same method, but the old cookbook seems to think you know more about baking. For example, the print version says to sift the flour, add salt & soda, and resift (which I did). The app version says sift the flour, put it in a bowl, and then thoroughly stir in the salt and soda, which takes more time and probably isn't as good a way to do it.

It's easier to find things in the old-fashioned print index. If the iPad app has an index like this, I haven't been able to find it. At left: the entries for "Deviled" foods in the printed Joy of Cooking. It takes a while to locate a recipe in the electronic version. It shouldn't be that hard.
• I don't have anything against e-recipes in general. I typed in most of my own recipes starting on a very early Macintosh in around 1990, and now use them on the iPad. I also find many cooking ideas and recipes online. My remarks about e-book issues are specifically about the Joy of Cooking App.
• For much more information on the history of the original Joy of Cooking, there's a biography of its two authors, Rombauer and Becker. I reviewed the book, here: Stand Facing the Stove.

About Devil's Food Cake

A piece of the cake I baked, as we served it for dessert at Nat's house.
According to the Food Timeline: "Recipes for rich, chocolate cakes similar to devil's food were fairly common in late 19th century cookbooks, but they were not named such. They were typically listed under the generic name 'chocolate cake.' Recipes titled devil's food proliferated, sometimes with interesting and creative twists, in the first decades of the 20th century. Red Devil appears in the 1930s. ...How this chocolate cake came to be called devil's food no one knows although it may have been a play on opposites: it was as dark and rich as angel food was light and airy."

The traditional difference between just a chocolate cake and a devil's food cake is more chocolate. "When the larger amount of chocolate is used, it is a black, rich Devil's Food," said the first Joy of Cooking (1931 p. 236, cited in the Food Timeline). For a selection of mid-twentieth century recipes see this post at Dying for Chocolate.

1950 Devil's Food Cake Mix ad
from Swans Down
Devil's Food was a natural for cake mixes, though I'm not sure when the very first mix for Devil's Food Cake was introduced. Mixers and cake mixes both became very popular in the early 50s -- though both had existed as less widespread products prior to that. My mother started using both of them at that time.

One time in the early 1950s, our neighbor (who worked for a survey outfit) recruited my mother to bake several cakes from unmarked boxes of cake mix and fill out a questionnaire about how she liked each one. I've always wondered if my mother contributed to the cake mix makers' belief that women prefer a mix that requires the addition of real eggs. At about this time, Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, Swans Down and the rest formulated most cake mixes to require 2 or 3 eggs instead of including powdered eggs with the other powdered ingredients.

As I baked on Sunday, I was thinking how much work it would have been to bake even a mix without an electric mixer! These two convenience products obviously made cake baking much easier.

While devil's food cakes and cupcakes are often featured for Halloween, they are obviously well loved all year around. Not like pumpkin!

Main Course: Poulet Diable

We took my cake to Nat's house Sunday night, for dinner with Nat and Carol. To complement the Devil's Food Cake, Carol prepared a recipe for Poulet Diable; that is, chicken with a piquant sauce of Dijon mustard, shallots, white wine, and cream. I think she used Dorie Greenspan's recipe.

Devilish Dinner: Carol's Poulet Diable and two Devil-Themed Wines at Nat's house. Followed by the cake.
Poulet Diable, in some form or other, seems to be a classic -- as illustrated by several French cookbooks. In celebration of Cookbook Wednesday, I also give you this list of references to the dish from cookbooks published between the 1930s and 1960s:
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking has a recipe for Poulet Grillé à la Diable: chicken halves or quarters broiled with mustard, herbs, and breadcrumbs. (Beck, Bertholle and Child, p. 265).
  • Both the Larousse Gastronomique entry for "Devilled" and the glossary of Raymond Oliver's La Cuisine define the method of cooking chicken called à la Diable to consist of slitting the bird along the back, spreading it out flat, and grilling it with various spices or sauce. In the "Sauce" entry, Larousse also provides three recipes for a Sauce Diable for grilled chicken, with vinegar, shallots, thyme, cayenne pepper and other ingredients.
  • In his cookbook Ma Gastronomie the very famous chef Fernand Point gives a recipe for Poulet Grillé à la Diable. He calls for a chicken cut as described above, with a sauce made from vinegar, parsley, peppercorns, tarragon, egg yolk, and butter (p. 170).  
I wondered why the name of the dish was "à la Diable." I found out that it's short for à la façon du Diable; that is, in the manner of the devil. There are various derivations for this expression, but none of them have anything to do with Halloween customs. Like devil's food cake the dish would be good at any time of year!

1 comment:

~~louise~~ said...

HI Mae!
Whew, I finally made it here and just in the nick of time I'm might add, or perhaps not:)

I'm sure your Devil's Food Cake was a huge hit! I love the notion of comparing the two recipes and methods. I haven't been able to bring myself to use anything electronical when it comes to recipes. I too added many recipes in the 90s but alas they were never transferred to later Macs. I think I used Mastercook at the time.

I actually did a post about Devil's Food Cake for Devil's Food Cake Day a few years ago. If you didn't see the post, I'll leave the link for you below.

The Poulet Diable sounds like a wonderful Main Course for this dessert. The theme of your dinner seems to have been a big hit. I'm so glad you have joined in on Cookbok Wednesday, Mae. Thank you and of course, thank you for sharing this post.

P.S. Yipee! The roof is done!!!